The post-feast hangover hanging over Cairo

Well Ramadan has ended, and so has Eid el-Fitr, the three day 'small' feast that follows. It's back to work, though the first day was a lot quieter than a normal working day in Cairo. It's as though a collective hangover has dropped onto the city.

The first night of the feast was celebrated by a shopathon of epic proportions (it's the time to buy new clothes, and yes, I obliged), followed by three days of peace. The traffic was so quiet, I could hear the birds in the trees, normally muted by the belting of a million car horns. Where were all the people? We found them...

Last night, we went to the Pyramids, to ride. It was pandemonium here, people. We went to our usual stable (it's called NB, in case you're asking) but to get to the stable, our cars had to dodge between horses of every shape, size and colour being led by small boys, dragged along by the handful to be saddled up for the armies of young guys that were pouring into Giza at midnight. Occasionally a few camels lurched slowly in front of the headlights, to add to the fray.

Hundreds of boys on rented nags barrelled out into the desert in packs of 10 to 20 at a time, riding as though their lives depended on it. Fearless, stupid. Choose your words. To the sides of the packs were the stable boys on ponies or donkeys, employed to holler and crack whips to keep the horses running.

Normally horseriding up here is most popular during the full moon, when the desert is lit up. But it was just after the crescent moon (Ramadan ends at the sighting of the crescent moon), so the desert was quite dark, and rang with shouts and whooping as everyone yelled out to keep sight of their mates.

I had a near miss and Karim’s horse reared at an oncoming horse and fell on its side. I asked what happened to him. “He reared and the next minute, I was standing beside him,” he said, still surprised at his own fortune, and we saw at least one riderless horse fleeing down the path, saddle and reins dangling. Dangerous? Yes. Crazy? Yes. Exhilarating? Absolutely.

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